Uneven Development

Our population is just about to hit 8 billion. People are living in every corner of the world. Are we all living equally? Different countries around the world have different levels of development, which can directly affect the populations living in those countries. Development is vastly uneven, with some countries being highly developed, while others suffer the consequences of low development. What exactly does this mean? What has caused this unevenness, and what are the consequences? Let's take a look!

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Table of contents

    Uneven development definition

    Development levels differ around the world. This can be on an economic scale, based upon the general wealth of the country. It can also be on a social scale, based upon factors such as healthcare, education, and people's quality of life.

    Development is the improvement of the standard of living of a population. This can be economic, social, political, and/or environmental.

    Standard of living is the amount of wealth or goods that people have.

    Quality of life is the level of access to things like health, comfort/leisure and feelings of safety.

    Uneven development describes how development is different across the world. The development process takes place at different speeds.

    How can we tell if a country is developed?

    To show whether a country is developed, there are certain development indicators or Measures of Development. These can also be used to compare countries with each other. Go ahead and read the Changing economic world explanation to understand more about the different types of development indicators and how they are used. Make sure you understand the terms Low Income County (LIC), Newly Emerging Economy (NEE), and High Income Country (HIC), before carrying on with this explanation!

    We can also look at development on a scale. The Development Continuum can show a scale of development, showing the least and most developed countries, and those in between. It can show countries that may have rising economies or those which are becoming more industrialised.

    Newly Emerging Economies (NEEs) are countries that are seeing a rise in economic development or industrialisation.

    Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs) are countries which are becoming more industrialised, moving away from agricultural production toward manufacturing industries.

    The Development Gap shows the difference between richer and poorer countries. Reducing the development gap is vital for reducing uneven development. Take a look at the Closing the Development Gap explanation for more on this topic.

    Physical, economic and historical causes of uneven development

    Uneven development is a global issue. There are stark differences between HICs and LICs. But why is this the case? Let's take a look at some physical, economic, and historical causes of this uneven development.

    Physical causes of uneven development

    Some of the physical factors that can cause uneven development are based on climate, the production of raw materials, and country placement.

    Climate

    • Warm climates make diseases like malaria or dengue fever more common, causing sickness, and reducing the workforce, limiting economic growth.
    • Natural disasters lcan cause deaths, and are expensive to recover from infrastructurally.
    • Water Insecurity can cause sickness, death, and reduced agricultural production.

    Natural resource curse theory

    The natural resource curse theory, or the paradox of plenty, essentially describes how countries that have vast amounts of a particular resource, are doomed for poor development. This is because the primary objective is to make money from that resource, rather than focusing on ways to improve development.

    Coastal vs landlocked countries

    Having a coastline can mean that countries have good access to sea trade routes, as well as direct industries, such as fishing, which can improve economic growth. If they are landlocked, there is no coastal access, blocking them off, and limiting opportunities for sea trade. Other modes of transport for trade are often more expensive, wait times are longer, and the country becomes reliant on other countries with access to the sea.

    Economic causes of uneven development

    Economic growth is vital for understanding development as a whole. This is vastly uneven globally; let's take a look at some of the reasons why.

    The cycle of poverty

    This describes the way that people become stuck in a vicious cycle of being poor. With a poor economy, there is reduced investment into vital sectors such as healthcare or education, resulting in a depleted workforce (sickness or unskilled workforce), and therefore less money goes into the economy. If these countries are also in debt, the situation will only worsen, as they will be in a constant cycle of owing money.

    Global trading systems

    Trade happens all over the world. It is the transfer of products and goods between countries. However, most of the trade systems are controlled by HICs or Transnational Corporations (TNCs).

    Transnational Corporations (TNCs) are large and powerful companies that are spread all around the world. Think about Mcdonald's or Starbucks!

    Raw materials are materials that other things are made from. Coffee beans (the raw material) turn into coffee (the tradable product).

    HICs and TNCs tend to source their raw materials from LICs, as it is usually much cheaper. Raw materials are often made into more expensive goods or products in HICs, therefore boosting these economies instead, whilst LICs have to import these expensive goods, so economic growth remains low. LICs typically only export one type of product, such as coffee, which can mean they become reliant on this. Demand and prices can change for these products; if there is an increased supply of the raw materials, then the price will be much lower. Economic gains can then vary, and economic growth is therefore relatively unreliable.

    Historical causes of uneven development

    Although there are factors that cause uneven development today, historical events are still having an impact on the modern development of countries.

    Colonialism

    Colonialism has occurred intensely throughout history. Colonialism refers to the control of countries by another country. Countries that have a colonial history have lower development levels today. During colonial times, resources and money would be taken from colonised countries, often for the benefit of the colonising country. In the 1950s, many countries became independent and removed their colonial ties. However, this has resulted in a power struggle for control over the countries, resulting in conflict and political instability, hindering development further.

    Consequences of uneven development

    Uneven development can result in differences in wealth, and access to healthcare. It can also force people to leave a country. Let's look further into these consequences of uneven development, with some examples, too.

    Wealth disparities

    Uneven development results in differences in wealth across the world. Some countries are much richer and much more powerful than others. In 2017, the United States had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over $19 trillion, compared to the Central African Republic, with a GDP of $1.95 billion.

    Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is how much money a country makes in a year from its products or services.

    Wealth disparities can result in large inequalities in standards of living, where some people have less access to safe water supplies, sufficient food, education, housing, security or even healthcare. Uneven development can cause a larger gap between the rich and poor within countries, too. There is often a huge gap between the very wealthy and the very poor, both in HICs and LICs. In some cases, this can result in conflict or civil unrest.

    This can be visible in Mumbai, where the super-rich and those who reside in slums live nearby each other. The second most expensive house in the world (after Buckingham Palace) is placed directly next to one of Mumbai's slums. This indicates social segregation, or the separation of groups of people, in this case, the rich and poor.

    Uneven Development, Antilia Tower, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Antilia tower in Mumbai, the second most expensive house in the world

    Health disparities

    Uneven development can result in large health disparities. Life expectancy is generally much higher in HICs. For example, life expectancy in the UK in 2019 was 81.20 years old. This is because healthcare is typically better, with more access to doctors, and investment into this sector is higher. LICs often have poorer access to safe water and suffer from the Impact of Water Insecurity. This can result in higher disease rates, causing sickness and death. The Central African Republic has a current life expectancy of 54.022. Higher infant mortality rates occur in LICs due to poor sanitation, lack of clean water, and also poor nutrition, caused by the Impacts of Food Insecurity.

    Life expectancy is the amount of time a person is likely to live.

    Infant Mortality Rate is the number of children that die under the age of 1, per 1000 births.

    These are both Measures of Development.

    International migration

    Uneven development can be a direct cause of more people moving away from their home country.

    International migration is the movement of people across borders.

    People usually migrate because of push and pull factors. Push factors are reasons why people want to move away from a country. Pull factors are the reasons why another country may be more attractive. People may be pulled to a HIC country, as there are more economic or educational opportunities. However, people can be pushed out of their home country because of war or natural disasters. International migration can also make development worse; more educated people tend to leave LICs searching for better opportunities elsewhere. This causes a brain drain in the LIC, limiting economic development.

    Refugees are people who are forced to leave their homes, often because it is unsafe to stay.

    Brain drain is when more educated people leave a country searching for better opportunities, work, or education. This reduces the number of educated people in the home country.

    Uneven Development - Key takeaways

    • Development levels differ all around the world, and development can take place at different speeds. This results in uneven development globally.
    • The development level of a country can be shown using development indicators, income labels or the development continuum.
    • There are many causes of uneven development; physical (climate, the natural resource curse, and landlocked countries), economic (the cycle of poverty, global trading systems), and historical (colonialism).
    • The consequences of uneven development are wealth disparities, health disparities and international migration.

    References

    1. Fig. 2: Antilia Tower (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mumbai_03-2016_19_Antilia_Tower.jpg) by A. Savin (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:A.Savin) Liense type: Free Art License (http://artlibre.org/licence/lal/en/)
    Frequently Asked Questions about Uneven Development

    How does climate affect uneven development?

    Warmer climates can increase disease prevalence, which can affect the workforce and therefore slow economic development. Natural disasters can also hinder development, as well as water insecurity.

    What are the causes of uneven development?

    Physical causes of uneven development include climate, natural resource curse theory, and being landlocked. Economic causes include the cycle of poverty and global trading systems. Historical causes can be exampled by colonialism.

    What are the effects of uneven development?

    The effects of uneven development include wealth disparities, health disparities, and international migration.

    How can we reduce uneven development?

    We can reduce uneven development by closing the development gap. 

    What is an uneven development?

    Uneven development describes the way development differs across the world, and takes place at different speeds.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is the standard of living?

    What is the quality of life?

    True or false: the development continuum helps to show a scale of development, with the least and most developed countries, and the countries in between. 

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